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KidsLiveWell Helps Smaller Restaurants Offer Healthful Choices

The National Restaurant Association’s KidsLiveWell program reminds all that it is not just for the big ones. We have reported earlier that 19 big names have spearheaded the launch of the program, all geared up to set a healthier food trend for children. Now they are encouraging the participation of everyone, the big restaurant companies as well as small independent restaurant operations –be it a small deli, a little diner or one little restaurant.

Restaurants join hand in hand in promoting and offering menu choices that hold fast to parents’ ideals for healthy and nutritious food for their children. Included in the program’s rigid criteria is the initiative that the meal should not have more than 600 calories, has 35% or less calories of total fat, has 10% or fewer calories of saturated fat, not more than 0.5 grams of Trans fat and 35% or fewer calories from total sugars. It also has to have not more than 770 mg of sodium and needs to have at least two of the basic food groups – vegetables, lean protein, lower fat dairy, fruits and whole grains.

T-bones Great American Eatery, one of the smaller food operators which spearheaded the campaign, recently offered salmon to its children’s menu and saw that the children loved it.

“Our chefs in their stylish chef hats have come up with healthier choices here so that parents and older kids can have options on what they want to eat,” said Tom Boucher, owner of Great Hampshire Restaurants which operates five T-Bones locations and two Cactus Jacks outlets.

Another smaller restaurant company joining the KidsLiveWell program is Silver Diner, which is based in Rockville, Md.

“We feel that we have a moral obligation to provide kids and adults alike with a healthier diet,” said the restaurant’s founder and Chef Ype Von Hengst. “We have been giving them these choices for the past 21 years. If our chefs, in their smart chef hats, decide to include chicken tenders or pancakes in our menu, we find a way to make them a whole lot healthier. ”

He advises that independent operators who are interested in participating in the program start now, and they can do it gradually. Start by providing simple dishes, like grilled or baked items. “However small your operation is, you can give dad and mom choices in giving their kids more nutritious dishes.”

Tom Boucher further said that they have already been looking for ways to offer healthy kids’ dishes as early as a year ago, and joining KidsLiveWell was a good way to help them enhance their menu and promote it. They have tugged and pulled their menu here and there and came up with “in the pink” items, such as their salmon dish and barbeque chicken that are not more than 650 calories and has less than 10 grams of carbs or fat.

“The KidsLiveWell program has clearly taken nutritious children’s meals to an entirely new level, and we wanted to make sure that we are on board,” he said.